Radishes Aren’t Just For Peter Rabbit

Columnist Stephanie Casey
Columnist Stephanie Casey

As soon as I started harvesting radishes from my garden, I knew I wanted to devote a column to this colorful vegetable.

For most of my life, radish exposure was limited to the classic round reds acting as decor on party trays or dry, bitter slices in a salad. No, thanks! I began playing with this vegetable in my kitchen a few years ago.

Now a spring favorite, I have found so many ways to enjoy radishes. If you are not a fan, I hope you will give the little guys another chance.

They are very hearty, grow easily and quickly, and can even act as a deterrent to garden pests because of their pungent, spicy quality. There are many beautiful and tasty varieties ranging in spice, shape, and color. With their greens intact, the vegetable retains moisture, nutrients, color, and wonderful flavor. Side note: Whenever possible, buy vegetables with their leaves, stems, roots, even dirt still on them — these will always be your best-tasting and most nutritious choice.

A current favorite radish variety is the French Breakfast. Slender with a pink-red top fading to a white root, it’s a mellow strain with a milder flavor than some of the others. The French like to enjoy their radishes simply — sliced on a baguette with butter and salt.

Use greens as you would any green — in a salad, on a sandwich, wilted into pasta, in pesto, add to a frittata or quiche. If the flavor is a bit stronger than you are ready for, just massage raw leaves with a little lemon or oil. This will mellow out green leaves from any veggie.

If you’ve done crispy kale, try crispy radish greens. Just keep the oven temperature very low, as these greens have a higher water and lower fiber content than kale leaves. I love making a toasted ciabatta sandwich with sliced raw radish, lemon-massaged radish greens and a creamy spread (whisk fresh lemon, no-egg mayo, cracked pepper).

They are great raw, and sliced thin they add awesome crunchy spice to any salad or sandwich. Again, if yours are a bit too spicy or pronounced for your taste, toss them in lemon and a little salt. You can also roast or grill radishes. I’ve been known to pan-fry slices with smoked sea salt until crispy, pile it on toasted bread rubbed with garlic, finely chop up the greens on top, and call it bruschetta.

I suppose you could even batter up and deep-fry thick slices of radish, though I haven’t tried this, yet. But I think I just thought of my next radish taste test.

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